Single drink risk to elderly women
Just one alcoholic tipple a day can damage the hearts of elderly women, research has shown.
A study of 4,466 people with an average age of 76 found that "moderate" drinking led to small reductions in heart function, but only among women.
The US scientists defined moderate alcohol consumption for women as one drink of beer, wine or spirits a day.
Among men, "heavy" drinking - consuming more than 14 beverages a week - was associated with enlargement of the wall of the heart's main pumping chamber.
Lead researcher Dr Scott Solomon, from Harvard Medical School, said: "Women appear more susceptible than men to the cardiotoxic effects of alcohol, which might potentially contribute to a higher risk of alcohol cardiomyopathy (heart damage linked to alcohol) for any given level of alcoholic intake."
Previous research has shown that light to moderate drinking may protect against heart disease. Heavy drinking is known to be linked to a higher risk of cardiomyopathy, marked by the heart muscle becoming larger, thicker, more rigid, or scarred.
Co-author Dr Alexandra Goncalves, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, US, said: "In spite of potential benefits of low alcohol intake, our findings highlight the possible hazards to cardiac structure and function by increased amounts of alcohol consumption in the elderly, particularly among women. This reinforces the US recommendations stating that those who drink should do so with moderation."
The research is reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.